We are very pleased to announce our upcoming edit-a-thon at the Library of Congress on Friday, April 11, the first event we have had with the Library since the Google Opening Reception of Wikimania 2012 nearly two years ago. We think it is only fitting that the world’s largest encyclopedia would partner up with the world’s largest library.
Our event will focus on the Africa Reading Room, which includes books on African and Middle Eastern history. We have selected this—out of all of our options—because we are in a position to address a long-standing issue on Wikipedia. There has been much press coverage of Wikipedia’s gender gap, resulting in an encyclopedia that reflects the prerogatives of its overwhelmingly male authorship. This means there are more articles about men than women, to such an extent that some incredibly accomplished women go years without having articles on Wikipedia.
That is only part of the systemic bias equation. Wikipedia also has a Western bias with regards to what is written about. Statistics collected by WikiProjects, which are informal groups of Wikipedia editors, provide evidence of this problem. WikiProject Africa reports that there are 57,753 articles regarding Africa on Wikipedia, while WikiProject United States reports that there are 227,878 articles on topics relating to the United States. To give some perspective on this, the United States is just one country, hosting 4% of the world’s population, while Africa is a large, diverse continent with 54 countries and over one billion people.
This is obviously lopsided, so we need your help. To help, meet us at 9 AM on Friday, April 11 in the lobby of the Madison Building. Use the entrance on C Street, by the Capitol South Metro station. You will need to check your coat in the cloakroom; personal items you wish to bring with you must be transported in a clear plastic bag. If you do not already have a Library of Congress researcher card you will need to get one before proceeding to the Africa Reading Room. We will be editing from 10 AM to 1 PM. If you are new to Wikipedia we will be more than happy to help you get started—everyone’s a newcomer at first! After 1 PM, you will be able to get lunch at the Library’s cafeteria and stay for as long as you would like.
In the long term, we would like to see Wikipedia editors continue to use the Library of Congress as a resource for improving Wikipedia, whether independently or during future Wikimedia DC events. We would also like to build a brain trust of people who are interested in Africa and are eager to do their part to improve Wikipedia. To sign up for this upcoming event, check out our event page on Wikipedia. If you cannot come Friday the 11th but wish to still help, send an email to kristin.anderson [at] wikimediadc [dot] org.
We hope to see you at the Library!